Name: Forte Forward
Type: Downloadable font
Publisher: The Monotype Corporation
Release year: 2022
Available as extra font download for Microsoft Office 365 (not available for retail at the moment)
Forte Forward is a strong script typeface for display use, and a revival of Monotype’s classic Forte made to commemorate its 60 years anniversary.
A lot of Microsoft Word users may be familiar with Forte. It was originally released by Monotype in 1962 and remained fairly popular, although it saw the true explosion in popularity after the inclusion in MS Office, starting with Publisher 1997. Forte became one of the go-to display faces from school papers to shopfront signs thanks to the visual punch and the befitting name; I cannot help but see the similarity to Impact in terms of the three keywords: Office, apt name, and visual strength.
The story of Forte Forward starts in 2017 with Tom Koch and Mara Reissberger, the daughter of Forte’s designer, Karl Reißberger (Mara prefers the double s spelling). They visited Monotype’s Salfords office to find out what is left of Karl’s work; the original drawings and correspondences. This fruitful trip ignited their passion to share the discovery of this Viennese pride with the public, and mine to revive the typeface. We wanted to celebrate the typeface’s 60 years anniversary in 2022, which eventually became the Finding Forte exhibition in Vienna and the revival to accompany it.
For more detailed story on Forte and the exhibition, I highly recommend reading Tom Koch's On the traces of the Forte, Finding Forte in the wild, Finding Forte exhibition 1, Finding Forte exhibition 2, and Slanted’s Finding Forte book.
1. The square body restriction
As you can see in Reißberger’s original drawings (see ‘On the traces...’), he designed everything within Monotype’s requirement for mechanical metal type, that is to fit the letters in the square body. This is why, for example, the lowercase f appears more upright than others, and capital T got its right arm cut short. While Reißberger’s manoeuvring around the restriction is simply masterful, I wanted to liberate the letters from the cage.
(Although the parts sticking out of the body was possible, aka kerns, I have never seen one typeface making excessive use of the technique, perhaps because too many of them would be quite fiddly. In the case of Forte, kerns were totally avoided in the A-z letterforms and only done in the diacritical letters like í.)
2. Stroke modulation and terminal shapes
Forte’s letters are sometimes too dark, most noticeably in lowercase n and m. The stroke terminals appear to be cut in one way, and another in other places, beyond what I consider to be a reasonable range of flexibility of the brush but makes more sense as a compromise on time and aforementioned restriction. And some terminals and corners feel too blunt or too sharp. I have made them a little more uniformly oval at consistent angle while maintaining the feel of Forte.
3. Lost, botched, and new letters
Like other Monotype faces that we digitised early on, its special letters were left out in the digital version. They were mostly special ligatures such as ck and tz. They were all restored, as well as those that didn’t even make it into the metal Forte in the first place: an alternate 3 and three different shapes of umlaut to pay tribute to its Austrian origin (one was a macron used originally to distinguish between n and u, but I am including it as umlaut). When Forte was originally digitised in 1992, some of the characters such as @ © # ™ were not available in metal glyph set. Monotype’s common practice at the time was to fill them in using other fonts, usually Arial or Times New Roman (Forte used Arial’s). It was a time of early digital typography when the quantity of digital fonts available mattered more than quality. They are all redesigned in Forward, and email addresses and hashtags don’t look embarrassing anymore. Lastly, old style figures, contextual alternates, and Reißberger’s illustration, including his portrait, have been added.
In conclusion, Forte Forward is my interpretation of the original typeface towards how sign painter’s lettering. Its strokes make more calligraphic sense, and flows better thanks to the more consistent slant angles.